Female radiologist reviewing patient scans on a computer

How to Become a
Radiologist

Gabriela Bercenas
By Gabriela Bercenas - CPRW, Content Writer II
|
Last Updated: April 20, 2023
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This straightforward how to become a radiologist article shares information on the typical job duties and how to acquire the skills and education to become a fully qualified radiologist. You’ll also find pay estimates based on national averages, predicted job growth and professional insights from a veteran radiologist.

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What Does a Radiologist Do?

A radiologist is a medical doctor who works with medical imaging. These professionals use CT scans, MRIs and X-rays to diagnose and treat patients. Many choose to enter a radiology subspecialty, such as breast imaging or cardiac imaging. Most radiologists work in public or private hospitals or private practices.

Typical responsibilities of a radiologist include:

  • Technical tasks, such as performing imaging tests.

  • Specialized knowledge includes adjusting and maintaining medical imaging equipment or interpreting results.

  • Medical tasks, such as accurately positioning patients and following physician orders.

  • Medical knowledge, like diagnosing medical conditions and proposing treatment options to the prescribing physician.

  • Administrative tasks, such as providing reports based on imaging tests.

  • Communication tasks, such as conferring with referring doctors.

  • Written communication tasks, like giving a full report to the physician who ordered the tests.

How Do You Become a Radiologist

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 6% growth in radiologist job opportunities, with an estimated 16,000 annual job openings until 2031. To pursue these job opportunities, follow these how-to-become a radiologist steps:

1

Complete your undergraduate degree and take your medical prerequisites.

You can apply for a graduate certificate, associate degree or bachelor’s degree. You should take courses in biology, microbiology, chemistry labs, organic chemistry labs, human anatomy lab and math.

There’s no pre-requisite degree requirement for your graduate medical degree, but the following degrees might help you harness relevant, transferable skills:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Social sciences
  • Math or statistics
2

Study for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

You’ll need to study and score well on the MCAT to apply successfully to some graduate medical programs. Double-check the application requirements of each medical school you apply to — some schools are dropping their standardized test requirements and may not require this step.

3

Research and apply for your medical degree.

Once you have your undergraduate degree, GPA and MCAT score, you can research different medical schools based on their programs and application requirements. We also recommend that you look for a program with a comprehensive combination of medical theory, practical labs, in-person training or clinic rotations, or on-campus radiology clubs where you can volunteer and earn valuable experience.

You can find comprehensive lists of radiography programs at the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) or MRI programs at the American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists (ARMRIT).

4

Study and pass the required medical exams while at school.

While in medical school, individuals must sit for two of three U.S. Medical Licensing Exams (USMLE). The first two exams, steps 1 and 2, are typically taken during medical school, with the third final exam taken after graduation. Your exam timeline is up to you, but we recommend you start studying and preparing to take your first exam during your second year and your second test during your fourth or final year of medical school.

5

Complete your medical degree.

Most medical degrees include three years of general medical education and one year of specialized training in the medical field. You’ll be able to specialize in radiology classes during that final year.

6

Apply for a radiology residency program.

The final step in your training is applying to your radiologist residency program. These four- to five-year programs include practical training and experience under a seasoned radiologist. This program consists of an application system similar to a job and college application combined — you’ll need to prepare your transcripts, USMLE results, letters of recommendation, resume and cover letter.

If you need help writing and formatting your resume and cover letter, consider using our AI-based Resume Builder. This helpful online tool auto-formats your resume and suggests page and text templates based on your academic and medical experience level.

Radiologist Skills

While a radiologist needs to possess medical and technical skills, other personality traits are imperative to be good in this role. Some patients may express discomfort or anxiety related to their exams and may need empathy, understanding, communication and compassion.

Key radiologist skills include:

Hard skills:

1Technical use of arrayed medical diagnostic equipment.
2Specialized knowledge of X-ray, mammogram or computed tomography (CT) imaging equipment.
3Basic understanding of human anatomy and musculoskeletal structure.
4Basic math skills to calculate the proper amount of radiation or magnetic resonance during exams.

Crucial soft skills:

1Detail-oriented
2Teamwork and collaborative
3Calm under pressure
4Critical thinking and analytical skills
5Excellent listening, speaking and writing skills

Insights from a Radiologist

It's always a good idea to ask professionals about their views on the subject you are interested in. Here are a few questions made to professionals in the field of Radiology. Find out what they answered.

What should someone consider before becoming a Radiologist?

A survey conducted by "U.S. News & World Report" reported that the average debt after completing medical school was around $145,000. This can be a disadvantage if you're not in it for the long run. It is estimated that the average medical student or any student in this particular industry can take up to 12 years before he becomes certified as a Radiologist. Time and money are the main factors to consider here.

What is the common career path for a Radiologist?

If you're looking for a career in radiology the most common path is an undergraduate degree. It can vary from an associate's degree in radiologic technology or a bachelor's in any science-related field. You can also find a school with a radiologic technology bachelor's degree program, but you won't find it in most universities. Afterwards, you attend medical school for 4 years and then complete a residency. Next, you can obtain licensures by taking the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE)

What type of person excels in this job?

Extraversion, openness to new experiences, and consciousness. Another attribute that can be a good indicator that you will excel in this industry is the recognition of limits and rational decision making.

What are some of the most important skills for a Radiologist to have?

Some of the most important skills for a radiologist are a strong analytical mind, detail-oriented, and good observational skills. But for the most part a strong interest for physiology and pathology.

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being a Radiologist?

Impacting the people around you in ways not everybody can have the ability to do. Also, there is hardly any paperwork to turn in which minimizes stress. The salary is great as well and the variety of fields available to choose from.

How Much Do Radiologists Get Paid?

Physicians, such as Radiologists, make a median salary of $187,200, with the lowest paid making $57,800 per year, and the highest paid making in excess of $187,200.

Top 10 States for Radiologists Salary

    New Hampshire

    $432,204

    North Dakota

    $416,667

    Maine

    $401,682

    Kentucky

    $399,251

    Florida

    $384,818

    Alaska

    $382,353

    Minnesota

    $382,353

    Wisconsin

    $373,563

    Indiana

    $369,472

    South Dakota

    $357,143

    Radiologist Resources

    Use the resources below to find out more about working as a Radiologist.

    On the Web

    Radiology Industry Resources (vRad)
    Latest radiology industry news and changing radiology landscape.

    The American Board of Radiology
    A not-for-profit organization that is one of 24 independent national boards that are members of the American Board of Medical Specialties.

    On LinkedIn

    American College of Radiology
    A college with a mission to making imaging safe, effective and accessible to those who need it.

    Radiology Professionals
    Social networking group for radiology professionals with almost 19,000 members.

    Blogs

    Diagnostic Imaging Blog
    Opinions, advice and news from radiologists and radiology professionals.

    UCSF Department of Radiology & Biomedical Imaging Blog
    Latest updates on UCSF Radiology research.